Employment Tribunal Fees Update
Unison fail in their attempt to halt the introduction of Employment Tribunal Fees
The introduction of fees for users of the Employment Tribunal (and Employment Appeal Tribunal) will definitely go ahead next week after Unison’s application to challenge in the English High Court was rejected yesterday.
Currently, those wishing to bring a claim against their employer in the Employment Tribunal do not need to pay fees (unlike in other forums, such as the Sheriff Court and Court of Session where parties are required to pay a fee). The Government made the decision to introduce fees so that the users of the Employment Tribunal are the ones who pay for it. They also intend that the changes will decrease the amount of spurious claims brought by employees and former employees.
Opponents of the change argue that the new fees will have significant implications for access to justice as it will deny claimants who cannot afford the fees from an effective remedy. It is also contended that it is indirectly discriminatory against low paid female workers.
The move, which would see initial “issue” fees of £160/£250 as well as a hearing fee of £230/£950, the amount being dependent on the type of claim, was challenged by judicial review proceedings in Scotland by law firm Fox and Partners as well as in England by the union Unison.
The Scottish challenge was heard at the Court of Session in front of Lord Bannatyne earlier this month. Due to an admission by the Government that they were not adequately prepared for the hearing, it is to be heard later this year. However, the Court did consider whether interim relief (i.e. preventing the fees from coming into force before the case is finally decided) should be granted. Whilst the Court was persuaded that Fox and Partners had a valid case, interim relief was refused on the basis that the Government had already spent a significant amount of time and money to get the new fee system in place.
In England, the rules for judicial review are different. There, a party wanting to challenge a decision by judicial review must have “leave” (i.e. permission) from the court to do so. (There is no requirement for leave in Scotland.) Unison was refused permission to bring its challenge of the introduction of fees by Lord Justice Stuart-Smith in the High Court in London. However, Unison intends to pursue its claim and an oral hearing has been set for Monday 29 July 2013 (the same day that the fees are to come into force). Interim relief will also be discussed during Monday’s hearing.
The Government has made an undertaking which promises to repay the fees to parties if the fees are subsequently found to be unlawful. However, it does mean that the new fee system will come into force as of Monday 29 July 2013. If you have an employment claim and wish to avoid the new fees, be sure to submit the claim to the Employment Tribunal online through the Employment Tribunal website by 4pm Friday 26 July 2013. We understand that if you are submitting the claim by fax or email then you have until Sunday 28 July 2013 to send the claim and avoid the fees.
Read more about the Scottish challenge, in our July employment law Matters.
Follow our Employment team on Twitter @EmploymentLawBM.
Stay tuned for further updates in due course!